Forward Thinking: The ugly side of networking


I very rarely - if ever - use Facebook for personal reasons. My profile has stayed the same since signing up - for the second time, I might add, because I forgot my password the first time round - in mid-2009. And even though I have lots of Facebook friends (Hey, I just click accept, accept, accept and leave it at that), I mostly stay in touch with friends by going to see them, or talking to them on the phone - even though that might sound horribly behind the times. Also, I certainly don't see the need to tell people about that profound thought I had while sitting in the little boy's room earlier in the day. Who really cares about my spontaneous, albeit quite brilliant, thoughts, anyway?

For me, Facebook is mostly a research tool; one that also allows me to track people down for work (the electoral roll is no good when you're trying to get hold of a band or music producer who lives overseas). And, oh yes, I have to admit it's also very useful for being nosey (when I get the time).

After seeing The Social Network I'm less inclined to use it for personal reasons considering how unlikeable the brilliant young billionaires who had a hand in inventing the phenomenon actually are. At least that's the way the movie portrays Mark Zuckerberg, the brains and cunning behind Facebook, and Sean Parker (played by pop star Justin "Trousersnake" Timberlake), the Napster inventor who lured Zuckerberg to the high life and took Facebook to heady new business heights along the way.

Hoity-toity twins Cameron and Tyler Winklevoss (or the "Winklevi" as Zuckerberg wryly puts it in the film), who believe Zuckerberg stole their idea and turned it into Facebook, come close to being likeable with their silly brotherly banter and posh Harvard ways.

That Parker though, he sure is a piece of work. I read a Vanity Fair story about the guy, and if the portrayal of him in the article is to be believed then old Trousersnake plays the enterprising and intelligent yet ruthless and conniving party boy quite brilliantly.

And no, my dislike of these two is not a case of sour grapes, because I'm quite happy being normal and paying a mortgage, thank you very much.

The ironic thing is that despite the unsavoury personalities of Zuckerberg and Parker, The Social Network is still a thrilling, fascinating film. It's the best I've seen in a long time.

Even more incredible is that these two computer-obsessed cronies, with often repellant personalities, managed to develop and create the biggest social network the world has ever seen. Although, given Zuckerberg's awkward and inept social manner (again, I'm going on what the film depicts), it's no wonder he's more comfortable in front of a computer screen than sitting at a table across from you at a restaurant. And strangely, since the film is about hundreds of millions of people who sit on their bums communicating with their friends - and with strangers around the world - on their computers, The Social Network also made me want to go out and party.

As obnoxious and devious as Parker was, I found myself wanting to follow him to the club and let him lead me astray. Not that we'd be best buddies or anything; although I might consider adding him as a friend if he asked (and that way keep him at a safe cyber distance). The Facebook movie reminded me of that chest-beating, amped-up party mood that Trainspotting conjured up, only with cocaine and light American beer instead of ecstasy and lager, lager, lager.

I guess the big difference is that Renton only gets away with a paltry £25,000 or so, whereas Zuckerberg is worth around US$10 billion these days.

I have to say, without giving the story of The Social Network away, I almost started warming to Zuckerberg. Weirdly, considering how much money he's worth, I think it was because I felt sorry for him.

- NZ Herald

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